Basement Theatre Studio, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

02/04/2013 - 06/04/2013

BATS Theatre (Out-Of-Site) Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington

08/10/2013 - 12/10/2013

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

21/02/2013 - 23/02/2013

Auckland Fringe 2013

Production Details


Come down to the Basement… and see the pretty dollies – in Parsons and Sainsbury’s horror comedy Dolly Mixture. Three shows only from Thursday 21st February.

Psychic siblings Crispin and Misty-Lou Melville share an uncanny bond – and a family membership of the Rototuna Doll Collectors Association. But when a malevolent presence manifests in their twisted lives, the Melvilles turn to Satan, as a thousand glittering eyes watch from the darkness…

Yvette Parsons and Thomas Sainsbury join outrageous forces in a demented horror comedy.

Think Chucky meets Suspiria meets The Ingham twins.

Yvette Parsons won the hearts of audiences throughout New Zealand with her tour-de-force solo show Silent Night, (for which she was nominated for the Chapman Tripp Actress of the Year Award and Most Outstanding Performance in 2012). Her appearances in the TV3 hit comedy series Super City, Comedy Festival favourite Dan Is Dead I Am A Yeti, Entertaining Mr Sloane, Toys, Dance Troupe Supreme, The House Of Bernada Alba and the legendary Gas have established her as an audience favourite.

Thomas Sainsbury’s plays have been performed in New Zealand, Australia, UK, U.S, Greece and France. His plays Loser, The Christmas Monologues and The Mall have been published by PlayPress.

In 2011 Tom was nominated for the Playmarket Capital E Outstanding New NZ Play of the Year for his play Joseph and Mahina. He co-wrote the critically acclaimed TV3 comedy Super City and is currently working on the second series.

WARNING: Content may offend. Contains nudity, offensive language and strobe lighting – R16

Auckland Fringe runs from 15 February to 10 March 2013. For more Auckland Fringe information go to

21st -23rd February at 8:30pm
Venue: Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Avenue Auckland CBD
Ticket Price $20 (Service fee may apply)
Bookings: iTicket –  Ph 361 1000  

2nd – 6th April 2013 at 7pm
The Basement Studio
Ticket Price: $ 15 – $20 (Service fee may apply)
Bookings: iTicket –  Ph 361 1000  


“If you like your theatre twisted, gruesome, smart, stupid and splendid – a thoroughly revolting romp with plenty of laughs – I recommend you get to the website and purchase your ticket as soon as possible” – Jan Maree, Theatreview 

Note: Dolly Mixture is strictly Adults Only.

Bats Out-of–Site, cnr Cuba & Dixon Streets, Wellington 

Tue 08 Oct – Sat 12 Oct 2013, 8:00pm

Ticket Prices 
Full $18.00 | Concession $15.00  | Group 6+ $14.00

Assistant director: Timothy Blake

Deranged laughs

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 11th Oct 2013

If you can imagine a horror comedy conceived by the Marquis de Sade and performed by a trio of inmates released from his fevered brain then you are getting close to the essence of Dolly Mixture.

Or you could think of the 19th century French theatrical genre, Grand Guignol. It was characterised by its melodramatic treatment of murder, rape, the supernatural and the like.

Crispin Merriweather (Thomas Sainsbury) has no family, no friends, and no job. He arrives at a house of horrors run by Beverly Beavington (Yvette Parsons) who just happens to be in need of a virginal young man to help her with her daughter Verity (Sarah Houbolt in a superbly creepy make-up).

Beverly, looking like a well-fed Bette Davis in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, trips about her house with elephantine grace, occasionally bursting into outrageous performances of songs like My Favourite Things, while tending to her large collection of dolls which she treats with a mix of love and hatred. She is also into séances for which Crispin happily provides some ectoplasm.

The boundaries of ‘what-can-we-get-away-with?’ are tested throughout as are the audience’s eardrums by Yvette Parsons’ screams that she emits in her steamrolling performance.


Make a comment

Falls well short of its potential

Review by John Smythe 09th Oct 2013

The horror comedy that is Yvette Parsons’ and Thomas Sainsbury’s Dolly Mixture is a variation on the ‘Grande Guignol’ genre, which originated in Paris in the late 19th century and has gone through a range of permutations within various cultures (the most crass being cinema’s ‘splatter film’ genre).

Oscar Méténier’s théâtre salon drew on the works of Edgar Allan Poe, and their chief playwright, André de Lorde, nicknamed ‘the Prince of Terror’, is said to have “preferred psychological suspense to gore, though he was not averse to the eye-gougings and acid baths that were popular features of the genre.”[1] 

Parsons and Sainsbury are more inclined to the sensationalism of bodily secretions and the attendant sexual and scatological comedy, though blood and the odd cracked cranium – not to mention a nail in the nose – do play their parts.   

While ‘shock value’ has always been a key ingredient, so too has the necessity to seduce the audience into a willing suspension of disbelief, if the shock, the horror – and the comedy, as a means of release from the shock/horror – are to be truly felt. And this is where Dolly Mixture falls well short of its potential, for want of an astute director’s ‘outside eye’, in my opinion. (There is no director credited for this production, although one Timothy Blake was ‘assistant director’ for the original season in last year’s Auckland Fringe.)

Yvette Parsons’ set design, festooned with countless dolls, is a visual triumph and her extreme costume designs also add colour and texture, if not subtlety.

In his characteristic deadpan monotone, the purple-suited Thomas Sainsbury plays ‘homestay’ tenant Crispin Merriweather, who seems to be the sole survivor of a series of fishing accidents afflicting his family and girlfriend. Friendless, jobless and a virgin, he is ripe for the plucking.

The home owner and doll collector, Beverley Beavington, is likewise alone, having lost her about-to-be-a-bride daughter, Verity, to a tragic accident and her husband to the “whore” he has run off with. Described in publicity as “demented”, Parsons – who has proved her capacity to play broad comedy grounded in truth with her profoundly poignant Silent Night – plays the ‘crazy lady’ to the hilt, displaying silly walks and bursting into raucous song apropos of nothing other than being theatrical. Thus Beverly’s driving concerns and motivations are constantly eclipsed by irrelevant behaviour.

Add a few theatrical indulgences from Sainsbury, and what could be a wonderfully horrific comedy, rooted in psychological truths we can all relate to despite the extremities to which they are taken here, hijacks itself with wacky theatrical shock games pitched, it seems, at an audience of equally indulgent fans who like to see their favourite entertainers being really outrageous on stage.

Given the mention in publicity of “a little satanic ritual” and the crediting on the programme of Sarah Houbolt as Verity Beavington, it is not really a spoiler to reveal that the dead daughter returns – though I won’t reveal how this is done. And Houbolt, for all the excesses Verity is prone to, does command credibility to great theatrical effect.

A good director could easily align Parsons and Sainsbury to the greater value of commanding our willing suspension of disbelief as the story unfolds. Both have shown in their past work – of which there has been much in recent years – that they are more than equal to packing a more powerful dramatic and comic wallop, while maintaining their trademark styles. 

[1] The Cambridge Guide to Theatre, 1995 edition, Cambridge University Press, p439.


Raewyn Alexander October 21st, 2013

While I appreciate the theatre history background details you've provided re the style of the wonderful Dolly Mixture, and indeed a production may benefit from having a director even when the players are as experienced as these, I believe a number of vital details or aspects have been overlooked regarding this excellent play.

The issues of child abuse, exploitation, consumerism, selfishness and associated ills are all highlighted within the narrative of Dolly Mixture, and we're provided with a fine chance to see those behaviours as truly grotesque. The audience does not need to read between the lines, as we need to do so often in everyday life when confronted with this behaviour, (it may be hidden or disguised). To gasp, cry, laugh and scream as I did with my disbelief quite suspended, such a blessed relief. Theatre is a place where we may react to life as we may not elsewhere, therefore the themes and situations shown enter our consciousness with a broader focus. The numb state of denial so many live with is surely allieviated by art like this, which can only be good for people. 

I screamed for some time at the end without even realising I was doing so. A fabulous experience in a theatre, to be so drawn into the action. This play makes us feel and react, perhaps in ways we dare not elsewhere. Why not? That's such an important question.

Also, isn't the elephant in the room always funding, with productions like these? Daring, innovative and highly original work perhaps gets side-lined too often due to a lack of funds to hire a director, or to provide a stunning set or costumes. It is a salient point that when a theatre piece has substantial financial backing then a director is more likely to be employed. That this play appears so gloriously idiosyncratic and with such a polished look, is something that needs to be paid tribute to. The hard work that goes into productions like this deserves recognition. The help from friends, fans, family, the extra organisation, the clever means of collecting props with donations, this kind of thing matters, it keeps art alive and diverse in a small country like ours.

Personally, I am delighted that these people continue to produce such thought-provoking, original and exciting work based around in-depth understanding of some appalling injustices and behaviours, which require examination and strong narratives. The chaos which surrounds abuse and prejudice also protects the perpetrators, day-to-day. Stories like Dolly Mixture open a view to human-made hell, a way to understand and perhaps act then in ways to minimise the effects of ill manners, deadly sins and inhumanity.

There is a reason these actors and writers have a strong fan-base, growing all the time. In a country where so often the art is diluted or santitised by some, to make it more palatable for our perceived delicate sensibilities, it's refreshing and frankly, refreshingly intellectually stimulating to see complex, detailed, well-acted and beautifully presented, (if I can say 'beautiful' for something so startling), theatre that's blatantly turning a hard eye on our worst and most peculiar tales. Dolly Mixture appeared to me as a triumph and a necessary story which more people deserve to see. 

John Smythe October 11th, 2013

Thank you for your feedback, Emma. To begin at the end, your assertion that I bring a “blind insistance [sic] on more traditional play-writing or direction” to my work is unfair and, I suggest, unsubstantiated. I happily open all my senses to a theatrical experience (I’d soon tire of it if I didn’t) and it’s the feelings this produces which I ‘interrogate’ when I set about writing a review: a process that necessarily requires engagement of the brain, for which I make no apology.

In this case, some of the over-the-top acting and ‘shock-horror’ devices got in the way of my abandoning myself whole-heartedly to the sensory experience (the poo, for example, and the licking of fingers, distracted me into wondering what it was really made of, whereas I readily bought into the make-believe ectoplasm, blood and open wounds). This led me to check myself, afterwards, on the question of genre; to ensure I wasn’t about to misrepresent a legitimate iteration of the venerable art of shock /horror /spectacle. And venerable it is!

Since you seem to feel that a genre “originating in the 1800s!” bears no relevance to today’s audiences, it is perhaps just as well I didn’t mention that Grande Guignol re-fashioned conventions that were popular when Shakespeare wrote Titus Andronicus (around 1590) and had a resurgence with the Jacobean Revenge Tragedy. As ever, “there is nothing new under the sun” even if “there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy” (I do love a good paradox.)

Anyway, I found it fascinating that wherever I looked for commentary on variations on this genre, the importance of willing suspension of disbelief was reinforced in the quest for maximising the theatrical effect of it all. The key question is whether this also holds true for comedy horror; for a play that sends up the genre – and I think it does, because ‘truth’ always plays a crucial part in generating a good laugh.

It’s a fine balance, which I why I still feel – based on the performance I saw - that an outside eye (e.g. a director) could facilitate some tweaking of Dolly Mixture so it doesn’t subvert itself and does reach its undoubted potential at every level.

Emma White October 10th, 2013

John, this is one of example of where your reviewing perspective is hemmed in, I feel, by being overly-cerebral and very history-facing.

No disrespect, and to be clear I have no expectation that you should give unanimously positive reviews, but you seem very closed off to the sensory in the way you view and review theatre. For instance here you reference a genre (originating in the 1800s!) that bears little relevance or meaning to many/most people reading your review. Then it seems to me like you measure this show against the prescriptions of (a) this ancient genre and (b) your own artistic priorities i.e. when you speak of the "neccessity" to suspend the audience's disbelief. Neccessary why / to what end / for whom?

When I mention the sensory, that's important. I don't think it would make your reviews weak or overly-personal at all if you mentioned how something you saw actually made you feel. For a show like this, this is key, I think. Even if you felt nothing, say that. But I would hazard a guess, judging by the audience on the night I went, you'd be in the minority. My own feelings included: Shock / horror / wanting to spew / crying with laughter / bemusement / admiration. 

Its not often I go to the theatre and something is genuinely bold and fearless. Who cares if it didn't follow the script or some lofty genre - it was bizarre, interesting, playful, fun and original - these are qualities you yourself often seem to undervalue in your blind insistance on more traditional play-writing or direction.

Make a comment

Gruesome, smart, stupid, splendid: a thoroughly revolting romp!

Review by Jan-Maree Franicevic 03rd Apr 2013

A great show has certain signs for me: I don’t look at my watch, the time races by, the end comes too soon and of course, I desperately want a) more and b) to see it all over again. Dolly Mixture is such a show, and so much more.*

This is a return season for a reason. Prolific playwright Tom Sainsbury and award winning television and theatre actress Yvette Parsons have struck gold with Dolly Mixture, nestled on a beautifully simple premise: Crispin needs somewhere to live and Beverly has a room. From there the story unfolds with precise lucidity.

All is not as it seems in the Beavington household: the landlady is a doll collector with a somewhat homicidal streak (not so much skeletons in the closet; they are stashed elsewhere) and Crispin, having endured the loss of all his family and his only girlfriend is, at best, socially challenged. It’s a perfect relationship backdrop to what becomes a most macabre series of machinations to bring to life the dear departed Verity, daughter of Mrs Beavington.

Aptly played by Sarah Houbolt, Verity is an ungrateful sprite, and much eyebrow-raising/stomach churning activity ensues once she arrives on stage. Not to say that there isn’t plenty of sickening hilarity prior. The show is crammed full of it.

What I really like to watch is the well worked dynamic between Beverly and Crispin, their ease together on stage: perfect foils for each other. There is light and shade between the two which offsets an (at times) hysterical Beverley, whilst lifting Crispin the dullard. No easy feat. Sainsbury and Parsons have a very well written, well rehearsed and well played piece of theatre here, it is a joy to watch.  

Special mention has to be made of their use of props. In any horror there is sanguinary splatter, gruesome stunts and viscera, but this is a live show with no room for CGI, so I have to wonder how long it took the pair to come up with their excellent collection of unseemly materials and substances, all of which are executed to great effect.  

My hat is off to Julian from Body FX who does a stunning job of Verity’s hair and makeup; truly gore-geous’.  On reflection, the use of colour in both Crispin and Beverly’s costumes helps add to the comedic nature of the work. Partnered with searing dialogue and the pair’s physical relationship, it makes for plenty of richly mined laughs.

It has to be noted that twice during the show Sainsbury breaks the ‘fourth wall’ stumbling into the audience, and with that follows my advice to stay out of the front row if you prefer to be a little more removed from the live experience! I also have to say that whilst (sat centre in the back row) I had a flawless view of the entire show I heard mutterings from those seated side-of-stage that much of the physicality of the show was lost to them. As the show is general admission I would heartily recommend getting in line early for your seat; in this instance, the more of this show you can see, the better!

This is a short return season of Dolly Mixture so time is of the essence! If you like your theatre twisted, gruesome, smart, stupid and splendid – a thoroughly revolting romp with plenty of laughs – I recommend you get to the website and purchase your ticket as soon as possible. 

*Someone needs to turn this play into a film. Really. 


Make a comment

Gross-out Dolly Horror

Review by James Wenley 25th Feb 2013

Thomas Sainsbury and Yvette Parsons’s previous work together typically tend to features unsavory oddballs, extracting comedy from social awkwardness and character eccentricities. This style is once again at play in Dolly Mixture in which the premise sees Crispin Merriweather (Sainsbury) boarding at the residence of Beverly Beavington (Parsons) who restores dolls as her hobby. But Beavington has a larger restoration project in mind. While Mixture is billed as a ‘horror comedy’, here the comedy is only a brief respite to the tension, horror and truly gross-out moments. Dolly Mixture is arguably Sainsbury’s and Parson’s sickness work yet, experimenting with how much they can get away with.

Beverly Beavington’s world is a mix of olive floral patterns, kitsch, the gothic, and faded glory: her living room’s centrepiece is a shelf filled with curious looking dolls in various states of disrepair which stare out directly to the audience and manage to look genuinely creepy. The dolls aside, the play’s aesthetic creates a palpable feeling of unease. Little things just aren’t right: Sainsbury’s bold purple suit is ill-fitting, and he keeps his backpack on the entire time, never comfortable. Parsons’s Beavington is unnerving: smudged lipstick, rotting teeth and black eye contacts which make her look uncannily like one of her own Dolls. [More


Make a comment

A rip roaring ride

Review by Heidi North 22nd Feb 2013

I thought I was going to see a “demented horror comedy about two doll-collecting physic siblings”, but quickly realise the synopsis has changed since the programme was printed. However, the “demented horror comedy” part still stands.

Innocent and socially awkward virgin Crispin Merriweather (Thomas Sainsbury) arrives at the house-as-a-homestay of doll collector and satanic alchemist Beverley Beavington (Yvette Parsons). He seems happy enough with his new digs, despite his new landlady’s passion for dolls, her glittery black eyes and demented demeanour. 

However, in between feeding Crispin great qualities of repulsive meat, it quickly unfolds that Beverly has a plan for Crispin: she wants to extract his semen in order to raise her deceased daughter, Verity, from the dead.  

And raise Verity (Sarah Houbolt) she does. Consummate circus performer Houbolt does an excellent job of the gruesome doll/demon Verity. Throwing herself about the stage in her blood-spattered wedding dress, she takes a grind saw to her chastity belt, bangs a nail up her nose and then says Satan taught her how. Quite.

Strong acting all round. Sainsbury and Parson’s have written themselves wonderful comedic characters and they carry them off with aplomb. Special mention must go to the masturbation scene, in which Yvette Parson’s delights the opening night crowd to the point of tears with her sexy butterfly dance.

If you aren’t afraid of doll collectors already, you will be after this. This is a rip roaring ride, and it’s jolly good fun. The opening night audience was howling with laughter and the cast was clearly enjoying themselves.

Yes, the script, while being great fun, could have been even better with a bit more polish, and yes, the production would have benefited from a tad more direction. But all in all, the cast do a great job of bringing a comedic horror (literally) to life. 


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council